New Sherwood

Aunts, uncles, and cousins

Originally posted on New Sherwood:

One effect of the shrinking modern family is that people today grow up not only with very few siblings, but also with few aunts, uncles, and cousins. The author of this article, Anthony Esolen, has 39 first cousins, twenty of whom grew up in his hometown of 5,000.  I have a grand total of three first cousins, none of whom I grew up with, and only one whom I see every now and then. Large extended families like Dr. Esolen’s helped an earlier generation survive the Great Depression. If one household was down on its luck, there was an uncle who owned a business, or a cousin with a spare room, or an aunt with time to babysit. Chances were good that a sizeable number of family members lived close enough to be called in an emergency. If a relationship went sour, as they do even in the best…

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February 13, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Catholics and Genesis

Originally posted on New Sherwood:


The other day I came across the following statement on a Catholic blog:

“Allow me to stress the most important thing for any Catholic to know regarding the historical accuracy of the Old Testament. First and foremost, as Catholic Christians, our faith is NOT based on this historical accuracy of the Old Testament at all. Our faith is based on the historical accuracy of the New Testament alone. The Old Testament simply serves as a historical, religious and cultural context in which to interpret the New Testament. That is all. So as Catholic Christians, we don’t need the Old Testament to be 100% historically accurate to have faith in Jesus Christ and the writings of the New Testament.

It is the opinion of this blogger that the events of the Old Testament probably do represent actual historical events, starting with the life of Abraham (about Genesis chapter 12) onward. Prior…

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February 6, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Holy Communion, Jansenism, and Scruples

Originally posted on New Sherwood:

There is nothing greater on this poor earth. To receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ – and with Him all the graces that God can bestow upon the soul – is the most sublime and significant thing one can do in this life.

Such a magnificent gift is not to be trifled with.

All Catholics know that one should not receive the Eucharist when in a state of mortal sin. But many a Catholic would not know a mortal sin if it bit him on the arse. This is not a new problem. Saint Teresa of Avila, in her autobiography, describes some of her earliest priest-confessors who were themselves confused on the point and led her astray:

“What was venial they said was no sin at all, and what was serious mortal sin they said was venial. This did me so much harm…

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January 8, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On the attainment of peace

From “Abandonment to Divine Providence”, by Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade, SJ:

There is no solid peace except in submission to the divine action.

The soul that does not attach itself solely to the will of God will find neither satisfaction nor sanctification in any other means however excellent by which it may attempt to gain them.

If that which God Himself chooses for you does not content you, from whom do you expect to obtain what you desire? If you are disgusted with the meat prepared for you by the divine will itself, what food would not be insipid to so depraved a taste? No soul can be really nourished, fortified, purified, enriched, and sanctified except in fulfilling the duties of the present moment. What more would you have? As in this you can find all good, why seek it elsewhere? Do you know better than God? As he ordains it thus why do you desire it differently? Can His wisdom and goodness be deceived? When you find something to be in accordance with this divine wisdom and goodness ought you not to conclude that it must needs be excellent? Do you imagine you will find peace in resisting the Almighty? Is it not, on the contrary, this resistance which we too often continue without owning it even to ourselves which is the cause of all our troubles?

It is only just, therefore, that the soul that is dissatisfied with the divine action for each present moment should be punished by being unable to find happiness in anything else. If books, the example of the saints, and spiritual conversations deprive the soul of peace; if they fill the mind without satisfying it; it is a sign that one has strayed from the path of pure abandonment to the divine action, and that one is only seeking to please oneself. To be employed in this way is to prevent God from finding an entrance. All this must be got rid of because of being an obstacle to grace.

But if the divine will ordains the use of these things the soul may receive them like the rest-that is to say-as the means ordained by God which it accepts simply to use, and leaves afterwards when their moment has passed for the duties of the moment that follows. There is, in fact, nothing really good that does not emanate from the ordinance of God, and nothing, however good in itself, can be better adapted for the sanctification of the soul and the attainment of peace.

October 15, 2013 Posted by | Catholic Faith, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Pope Francis: “Don’t complain to me!”

Pope Francis waves to crowds as he arrives to his inauguration mass on 19 March 2013.

Somewhere in the avalanche of articles and blog posts about The Big Interview, a writer I don’t remember chose to emphasize this passage:

“The dicasteries of the Roman Curia are at the service of the pope and the bishops,” he says. “They must help both the particular churches and the bishops’ conferences. They are instruments of help. In some cases, however, when they are not functioning well, they run the risk of becoming institutions of censorship. It is amazing to see the denunciations for lack of orthodoxy that come to Rome. I think the cases should be investigated by the local bishops’ conferences, which can get valuable assistance from Rome. These cases, in fact, are much better dealt with locally. The Roman congregations are mediators; they are not middlemen or managers.”

Indeed, this is an astonishing statement. These appeals go to Rome, presumably, because the bishops are already unresponsive. Often enough the bishops themselves are enabling and even promulgating the “lack of orthodoxy” (i.e., heresy). And now he wants turn these cases back over to the bishops? What is this but a total abdication of Rome’s responsibility to guard the deposit of Faith? Tragically and inexplicably, Pope Francis is more worried about “censorship” than heresy.

For decades now, the only thing that kept many Catholics going in chronically bad parishes was the knowledge that, at least, there was pope in Rome who “had their backs”. Well, they’ve just been cut loose. We’ve all been cut loose. Pope Francis is right about one thing: we’re all going to need to learn “new ways” of being Catholic under this pontificate.

September 28, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Who is the “mystery priest” whose prayers saved Katie Lentz?

UPDATE: The mystery is solved: It’s Fr. Patrick Dowling of the Diocese of Jefferson City.


By now many of you have undoubtedly been following this fascinating story. Forgive me for referring to numerous other media reports but not linking to them.

No, this isn’t Spirit Daily, but I do love a good mystery. It’s certainly possible that the “mystery priest” is alive and that his presence on the scene has a perfectly natural explanation. But if his appearance was miraculous, then I have a favorite candidate whom I think should be considered.

First, we have this composite sketch derived from some eyewitnesses at the scene:


However, the deputy sheriff who spoke with the priest, shook his hand, and observed him for 20 minutes says the composite looks nothing like him.

Rather, the priest is described n various reports as an older man, with an olive complexion, a thick accent, and wearing contemporary clerical attire (i.e., black pants, a black clerical shirt, and a white clerical collar) with dark rimmed glasses. He was seen to be wearing an older-looking silver cross around his neck, and to be praying an old wooden rosary. If this was the appearance of a saint, due to his attire he seems likely to be a late-20th century priest – not a monk, and not a bishop.

Another witness described the priest as looking like the late actor Walter Matthau, and Deputy Richard Adair admits the resemblance:


The man who comes to mind is Fr. Aloysius Ellacuria, a Basque-born priest who served in the Diocese of Los Angeles and died in 1981. He was known to work miracles, and there is a movement asking the Church to open an inquiry into his possible beatification. Here’s one account of some of his miracles:

Several miracles are attributed to this Claretian priest. Holding a great compassion for the sick, Father Aloysius prayed for example for Cardinal Rigali’s own mother, who had cancer several decades ago who then recovered following treatment.

Anthony Riaza of Murrieta, who was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 5, and given only three months to live.

After Father Aloysius and his guilds prayed “non-stop” for Riaza and the priest offered Masses to him, the boy and his family were told by a baffled doctor following two weeks of tests that he could leave the hospital.

In another incident, Riaza’s mother broke and paralyzed her hand in a freak accident and reluctantly asked the priest for his prayers.

“Right in front of our eyes she got almost complete movement back in her hand and she couldn’t stop crying from happiness,” Riaza wrote in the affidavit.

Kenneth M. Fisher of Anaheim recalls seeing his late nephew’s “crooked arm” straighten before his very eyes while the teen was being blessed by Father Aloysius in Fountain Valley.

He also recalls seeing an elderly woman fall backward during a pilgrimage in Italy in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s and hit her head on the edge of the cement step after the group had visited another mystic there.

“I thought, Oh my God, she’s very seriously injured or dead”. But after Father Aloysius and the other mystic blessed her, “she came to, got up and continued with the rest of us on the pilgrimage. She never even had a headache.”

Those who knew Father Aloysius personally describe him as a humble man with a quiet intensity who always credited God for his many gifts.

Furthermore, I think his image best fits the descriptions we have thus far:



August 10, 2013 Posted by | Catholic Faith, Catholic News, Uncategorized | 38 Comments

Bishop Athanasius Schneider: Clarify the Council’s ambiguities!

July 19, 2013 Posted by | Catholic Faith, Catholic News, Catholicism, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

George Jones, R.I.P.

The undisputed king and master of tear-jerking, heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, soul-aching American country music has passed into eternity. I grew up with his music. You might say he helped prepare me for the real world. He was a public sinner, but a humble one by all accounts. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him.

April 27, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Thomas Aquinas College in the spring

We were privileged to visit Thomas Aquinas College again this month. I attended one philosophy class and two theology seminars, and left greatly impressed with the participating students. One of the children remarked that TAC feels more like “home” than home, and I can definitely see the point. Here are some photos taken by a family friend who accompanied us:










April 19, 2013 Posted by | California, Catholic Faith, Catholicism, Culture, Education, Family, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The economy collapses on the young


When I left home at age 17, I almost lived the libertarian fantasy: with no favors, no preferences, no connections, and on the sheer force of a naked resume and a youthful smile, I knocked on doors in the industrial parks of Sacramento until a total stranger agreed to hire me for minimum wage.

I say “almost” because I was nevertheless surviving on the goodwill of relatives, who provided room and board for me while I “made it on my own”. I went to work for a family owned business, even though I wasn’t a family member.

It has long been my dream to be in a position to provide employment for my own children should they ever be in need. The older I get, the more unlikely it seems this dream will ever come to pass. Chances are, my children will have to “make it on their own” too. Increasingly our economy is leaving the young behind. 

” … I wonder how much kids are suffering from the absence of a father who can prevail on personal or business connections to help them find that first job, begin an apprenticeship, or begin a career. Moms can do those things too, of course, but there’s no doubt that the single-parent family leaves kids with one less parent to open doors for them.  And those parents are often younger, and working less stable, shorter-term jobs.  The connections needed to give their children a hand into the job market are less common than they used to be.  A powerful, subtle network that once helped young people interface with the job market has gone offline.”

Indeed. At age 46 – technically a member of “Generation X” – I belong to a transitional generation in which, for some, personal and familial connections still mattered, but for many, the expectation was one of total independence. Radical individualism. Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. Etc. By the 1980s employment by means of family connections, for example, was widely considered to be “nepotism”. A man working for his father’s business was thought to have been given an unfair advantage, at the expense of workers who may be better qualified.

Fast forward to 2013, and that mentality is thoroughly entrenched. We live in a militant meritocracy – in theory, at least, unless one is in possession of ideological entitlements (e.g., one is female, non-white, a disabled veteran, or homosexual). But if you don’t win the meritocracy contest, and if you aren’t entitled to decent employment for ideological reasons, then it’s tough going these days. Especially for the young. The unemployment rate for young people ages 16-24 exceeds 50 percent.

Insofar as we are to preserve a remnant of Christian civilization in the dark days ahead, we will need to get back to the practice of taking care of our own. Parents who are capable should make every effort to secure employment for their children, meritocracy be damned.

April 6, 2013 Posted by | Culture, Uncategorized | Leave a comment


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